Tag Archives: brands I like

Why Uniqlo Will Take Over the World

3036745-poster-p-2-jj-uniqlo-hires-wk-superstarMajor fashion retailers have had a rough time recently and their troubles have been well documented. Earlier this year Next reported disappointing results. BHS is in deep, deep trouble, threatening to close 52 of its stores. Even John Lewis has a tough time recently.

However, one fashion retailer that’s going from strength to strength is the Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo. I’m a big fan. With over 1 500 stores worldwide and the business continuing to expand, I’m clearly not the only one. So why is it so successful?

1 The Marriage of Style with Technology

Uniqlo’s products look great and many of them are super functional. Plus they organise them into a series of sub-brands that make it really easy to understand and navigate your way through the ranges. For example HEATTECH, created in collaboration with a materials science company turns moisture into heat and the fabric traps air which heats-up and protects you from the cold. The AIRism range does the opposite. It lets your skin breathe and keeps you cool.


2 The Clarity of the Offer

Uniqlo occupies the space in the market vacated by Gap (whatever happened to Gap?) – everyday, utilitarian staples, which appeals to a wide breadth of audiences. They ignore fashion trends, choosing not to imitate the latest catwalk offerings. Instead they focus on creating a huge range of bold colours to offer variety and choice


3 Incredible Value

Because of its simple, consistent ranges and the scale of its business, Uniqlo is able to order huge quantities and negotiate great deals with it suppliers. As a result, its garments are made with high quality fabrics and sold at really affordable prices.

4 In Store Discipline

There is a strong emphasis on staff training to ensure everyone understands the company culture. Store staff have to learn a set series of ‘behaviours’ which translate into a series of phrases that define what they believe to be great customer service. This discipline enables them to maintain high standards and a consistency throughout the world


The brand is very ambitious and is driven forward by it’s charismatic owner Tadashi Yanai who’s created a thriving business culture and developed a winning offer which really stands out from the crowd.

I’ve no doubt that the brand will continue to thrive and will dominate fashion retailing.


Yet Another Reason to Love Waitrose

I’ve spent the past 2 weeks running a series of training courses on Marketing Communications and the hottest topic of discussion was ‘Content’ – what it is, how to keep it fresh, how to manage it. We never had to deal with Content in pre-internet, days – the term didn’t exist. We simply had to create ads and try to avoid getting kicked out of Tesco. But it occupies everyone nowadays and simply keeping up to date with technological change is a big challenge facing marketers, let alone deciding what to say.

The example I often use to illustrate great content management is Waitrose TV, which features regularly updated videos of lovely food recipes which you can find on their Youtube Channel. Now, I have to declare an interest here, as my talented sister Silvana makes regular appearances with her wonderful recipes. For example. If you’re looking to create some Valentine’s Day treats (bit late, I know) – click here.

It’s no surprise that Waitrose is going from strength to strength. Everything they do seems to be spot on – from their advertising, through to their customer service, their product range and of course their inspirational (and free) recipe advice. In recent times, they’ve not put a foot wrong.

Building Brands – 7 Lessons From Lego



I’ve just read this fabulous article in Fast Company which gives us a fascinating insight into the Lego business and how – like Apple – it came back from the brink of bankruptcy and re-invented itself as a Global mega-brand. Here’s some of the key lessons we can all learn from the Lego story.

1 Acquire Deep, First Hand User Insight

What became clear was that Lego lost sight of how kids really play. To remedy this, they embarked on a huge, ongoing insight generation programme using a variety of research approaches where ethnography – observing real life play experiences – had a key role to play They also created alliances with universities and research agencies to get fresh perspectives. Now they know more than anyone about the true nature of play.

Key lesson: never stop learning about your consumers. Use a a variety of approaches to acquire fresh insight

2 Re-define and Stick to Your Core Business

This is an ongoing theme of David Taylor at the Brand Gym who writes about this extensively. The grass is always greener. New markets always look tempting, but it’s so easy to lose sight of what made you successful in the first place. Lego over-invested in ventures such as Legoland, where they had little experience or knowledge of the hospitality  or leisure business. Today its entire focus is on creating innovative play experiences.

Key lesson: remember what made you famous. By all means look for new opportunities, but focus primarily on growing your core business

3 Attract New Users

One of the big learnings from Byron Sharp’s book How Brands Grow was that brands are bigger because they have more users. So, having re-focused on their core business, Lego looked to actively seek new users beyond their traditional audience of 5-11 year old boys. 2 key groups they embraced were:

(a) young girls, who they attracted via a new range called Lego Friends which has proved to be hugely successful

(b) AFOLs (Adult Fans of Lego)…I love that phrase…via a range called Lego Architecture

In addition, they’re looking to grow their business in Asia, beyond their heartland of Europe and North America

Key Lesson: be open-minded about targeting. Look to grow by increasing your brand penetration.

4 Develop a Powerful and Creative R & D Resource

The Lego R & D function – Future Lab – is well equipped and highly influential. Also, it’s a very diverse group of people, with a range of backgrounds, skills and experiences. Cutting back on R & D resource may lead to short term cost-saving, but will ultimately starve the organisation of much needed innovation.

Key Lesson: you need an active, eclectic and well – resourced R & D function to ensure you stay future-focused.

5 Engage Your Superfans

People who love your brand are never short of ideas, so it’s great if you can harness their passion and creativity. Indeed the original idea for Lego Architecture came from Adam Reed Tucker, a Chicago architect. Lego has a site called Lego Ideas where fans can submit, review and vote on potential new ideas.

Key Lesson: create opportunities for your fans to suggest ideas and contribute to your success.

6 Test and Learn

innovation inevitably has a high failure rate – it goes with the territory. The issue is that mistakes can be costly and in the past, Lego was guilty of expensive failures, such as Lego Universe. Nowadays, it tests ideas in a more controlled environment, so that it learns as it goes along.

Key Lesson: keep trying new stuff out, but do so on a smaller scale. Absorb the lessons before you invest in a big launch.

7 Embrace the Digital World

For many brands – Lego included – the virtual / digital world can be perceived as a potential threat to the existing business. Lego is currently focusing on is merging virtual with physical play to create a new, hybrid play experiences, something they call Lego Fusion

Key Lesson: embrace opportunities the digital world has to offer. Keep abreast of new technologies and seek out ways to merge the virtual world with the physical.

Chambord – a lovely brand

Recently I did some work with the Chambord brand, owned by Brown Forman. I didn’t know much about it before, but over time I grew very fond of it.

For those who don’t know, Chambord is a black raspberry liqueur with a French heritage, which is used to create cocktails, notably the Chambord Royale


I really like the brand, because
(a) it has a really distinctive bottle – which is very decadent and stylish.

(b) it has a very distinctive personality and attitude – quirky, individual, surreal.

Here’s one of their ads, that really brings it to life. Love the voiceover and the end line

Parkrun. Creating a community of runners


For those who aren’t aware of it, Parkrun is a 5km running event that takes place in parks all over the UK every Saturday. Participation is free. All you need to do is register on their website, bring along your bar code and join in. On completion, your race time is texted to you.

This Saturday morning at 9am, there will be around 250 park runs with around 50 000 people taking part. With more events coming on stream and the introduction of a Junior 2km run,  numbers will continue to grow. It’s a phenomenal achievement and in my opinion has done as much as the London Olympics – which remember cost £9 billion – to encourage participation in sport.

I think it’s success is driven by a number of factors:

It’s easy to participate: simply register, get a bar code and you’re ready to run. By the end of the year there will be around a million registered park runners in the UK

It’s Inclusive: anyone can take part. It’s not about winning, it’s about joining in. A huge diversity of people of all ages and all levels of fitness take part

It’s free: Parkrun does have a series of sponsors to help fund the events and you do get the opportunity to donate. However, there’s no need to pay anything.

It’s local: there’s bound to be a park run near to where you live, which makes It easy to squeeze into a busy weekend.

It creates a community: there’s lots of opportunities to participate. As well as the comradery of the event itself, Parkrun relies on volunteers to help organise and marshall the events and there’s lots of opportunity to connect via social media

So, once again well done to Parkrun. It appears now that Parkrun is spreading to other countries so no doubt it’ll grow into a global phenomenon

Now that the weather’s improving, I hope to see this Saturday at Brockwell Park.

10 Brands That Capture the Spirit of Italy

I’ve been working in Italy all this week, so thought I’d reflect on the brands that I think truly capture the spirit of Italy. This is very much an outsider point of view. I’m sure indigenous Italians would have a different perspective. Here goes, in no particular order

1. Armani


There are so many Italian fashion brands to choose from, but in the end it had to be Armani. When you fly to Milan – often in fog – there’s an aircraft hanger near the runway with a huge ‘Emporio Armani’ sign on it. I see it and think ‘Hurrah I’m in Italy’

2 Illy Cafe


Italy gave the world the language of coffee, and the two key brands are illy and Lavazza. Perfect for your Moka coffee maker. In the end, I think iIly is more ubiquitous, particularly in bars. Plus I like the metal tin.

3. Barilla


There are hundreds of pasta brands in italy, but the biggest by far is Barilla, with its distinctive blue box. Although da Cecco is often regarded as the most premium pasta brand, if ever you go to an itallian deli in the UK, you’ll always find Barilla. I feel a bit guilty about not going for Buitoni – the brand I used to work on – but my head ruled my heart

4. Nutella


The smell and taste of this hazelnut chocolate spread is uniquely Italian. There’s nothing quite like it. Although can you find it everywhere nowadays, there was a time when you only ever get in Italy. When I went on holiday to Italy as a kid, it was the first thing I looked for

5. Campari


I never think about drinking Campari and Soda in the UK, but when it’s time for an aperitivo in Italy, I’ve just got to have one. It’s not exactly the trendiest drink – everyone orders Aperol Spritz nowadays –  but for me it’s the still best way to kick off the evening.

6 Birra Moretti


On the subject of alcohol, there are only 2 well known beer brands in Italy- Peroni and Moretti. I like them both, but in the end I’ve gone for Moretti, because it’s much less available outside of Italy than Peroni, which is now more of an international brand. Plus Moretti’s from Udine, which is where I am at the moment. I’ve got one in front of me right now

7 Fiat 500


Choosing a car brand was tough because there are so many great Italian car brands  – Ferrari, Alfa, Maserati, etc – but I’ve chosen the Fiat 500. A truly icon brand, which – like the Mini – has been re-invented for today’s generation

8 Vespa


There was only scooter brand I could choose – Vespa (wasp in Italian). The scooter that looks a bit like a small van is called Ape (bee in Italian). The Vespa was Immortalised in the film ‘Roman Holiday’ and I can’t imagine Italy without them. I was shocked to learn recently that in Italy you can start riding them from as young as 14 years of age.

9 San Pellegrino


I can’t think of another brand of Italian sparkling water  – can you? it’s served everywhere. Much better than any of the French mineral water brands.

10. Carpigiani


Strange choice I know, but Carpigiani is the brand of ice cream machines that you find in all ice cream vans. My family made ice cream for a living so I spent my youth cleaning them or serving ice cream from them. Have a look next time you buy a 99.

So, here’s my top 10. All fabulous brands that help bring to life this wonderful country.

Paul Smith – A Great British Brand


I’m a big fan of Paul Smith and have just came back from his lovely exhibition at London’s Design Museum. I think he’s the number 1 menswear designer and one of the UK’s finest brands.

For me, it starts with the clothes. It’s hard to get the balance between the classic and the distinctive and Paul Smith gets it just right. Beautiful styling with a hint of individuality. I particularly love his signature stripes that are often in the lining or hidden behind the cuffs.

I love his collaborations. Often he works with other British brands, such as Mini or else with brands that reflect his passions, such as cycling. My favourite his is collaboration with Mercian cycles, where he developed a special edition bike.


I also really like him as a person. There are lots of brand founders that you admire – Jobs, Zuckerberg, but they’re not always particularly likeable. However, I can really relate to Paul Smith and I love his story. It probably helps that he’s from the East Midlands, but he seems to be so down to earth and unpretentious compared to many other fashion designers

He’s been at the top of his game for many years now. I hope he goes from strength to strength. If you’re thinking of going to the exhibition, here’s the trailer.